By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
On Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) Director Dwane Chappelle; Denise Louie Education Center Executive Director Susan Yang and other partners announced the opening of applications for the City’s award-winning Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) for the 2022-2023 school year.
This year, SPP will expand with seven additional classrooms and one Family Child Care Hub to provide 144 additional seats to three- and four-year-olds living in Seattle.
“Seattle Preschool Program has grown into a national model,” says Yang. “The Denise Louie Education Center proudly has four classrooms that participate.”
“We thank the city for their leadership and support particularly during the pandemic and the ongoing challenges we have faced as a city,” added Yang.
SPP provides free tuition for most Seattle families who apply, with rates calculated based on household income and family size to advance educational equity and reducing race-based opportunity gaps in kindergarten readiness.
According to city officials, “Research shows that children who participate in high-quality early learning environments are more likely to succeed in kindergarten and throughout their educational journey. Seattle Preschool Program classrooms use evidence-based curriculum and promote culturally responsive, engaging, and nurturing adult-child interactions to create quality learning environments.”
The investments by the city in education shows an earnest commitment to the city’s youngest people.
“Investing in high quality preschool programs is a hallmark of a vibrant city,” says Yang. “(With) the mayor’s long term commitment to early learning we look forward to the city to continue to invest in its youngest citizens.”
SPP is a high-quality, evidence-based preschool programming offered by the Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) in partnership with a network of preschool providers throughout the city, including both community-based providers and Seattle Public Schools. Since 2015, SPP has helped prepare more than 6,300 children for kindergarten by developing pre-academic skills and supporting social-emotional growth. SPP is funded by the voter-approved Families, Education, Preschool and Promise (FEPP) Levy and aims to eliminate opportunity gaps in kindergarten readiness and provide access to high-quality early learning for all Seattle three- and four-year-olds.
“We are excited today to kick off this year’s application season,” says Chappelle. “This is our eighth year in the Seattle Preschool Program. Since we started in 2015 SPP has grown six-fold and since the voter approved levy three years ago, we have doubled the number of seats, which is an amazing job.”
“So, this fall we have the capacity for 2,100 Seattle children,” Chappelle continued. “High quality preschool is just one evidence-based practice or strategy that we are using to close the race-based opportunity gaps for Seattle students.”
In the eyes of educators’ preschool is essential to the overall success rate in educating and kindergarten readiness.
Data from DEEL shows how access to quality learning environments can impact the participants.
Access includes 2,144 total seats available across 88 sites for 2022-2023 school year. Of the 136 total SPP classrooms in 2021-2022, 58% are operated by community-based providers, 26% by Seattle Public Schools, and 16% by Family Child Care providers. In 2021-2022, 77% of enrolled children identified as minority; (29% Black or African American, 17% Asian, 15% Hispanic/Latino, 13% two or more races, 1% North African/ Middle Eastern, 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 23% white)
The Impact records show on 20-21 SPP participants in 21-22 Kindergarten 63% of participants were kindergarten ready, and that Black and Asian SPP participants were more like to be kindergarten-ready than their non-SPP peers.
“None of this would be possible without the cities investment,” says Chappelle. “We are grateful for the way our Seattle preschool providers have served our children and our families.”
Equity in education is one of Mayor Harrell’s campaign commitments and in his first one hundred days in office the mayor is forging ahead on that promise.
“Quoting Tim Burgess, a former mayor of Seattle, ‘the greatest equalizer, the greatest equity builder in our city can be a great investment in our young kids,’” says Harrell. “And this city should be in this space because many other cities are doing that.”
“Touring the country with other educational leaders it became crystal clear to me that this could be some of the greatest work we do,” Harrell continued. “I will tell you that under the leadership and partnership with the Seattle Public Schools, with great institutions like the one where we are holding this press conference, that the city will continue to invest.”
“I will also tell you that in our “One Seattle” vision, that these kids who come out eager to learn will be loved,” Harrell concluded.